KAUFMANN: Positive relationships: Be like Momo

am having a little trouble writing this month’s article, because my husband’s grandmother just passed on. She was an amazing lady who lived a full life of love and care for others. Her grandchildren fondly called her “Momo.”

Denise Peters, our Chief Operating Officer at the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, suggested a few months ago that I write about positive relationships. In our family’s bereavement, it is clear that all of us loved Momo. When it comes to relationships, she really did something right.

I find myself thinking, I want to be like her. When I am older, I want to leave a similar legacy of love and gratefulness. How can I do that? What exactly did Momo do and say, or maybe not do or not say, that made her so beloved by family, friends, and acquaintances alike?

So I started doing some research to discover the elements that psychologists have found are essential to forming positive relationships. Some of these are listening, empathy, mutual respect, and helping create a positive future.

To honor Momo, and to help us, I will do my best to distill how she lived out these qualities.

Momo listened without judgment. If you needed to talk, you could go to Mo. She would quietly listen and then affirm you with kind words, such as, “That’s hard.” A pat on the hand. A smile. And if everything was going well, she still wanted to hear all about it.

Momo seemed to understand. She had been through a lot in her life. After listening to you, she might share a similar experience from her past, just to let you know that she empathized. Then she would usually lighten things up with a gentle joke, to help you put things in perspective.

Momo respected you. With all of her years of experience as a mother, she could have easily condescended to me. Instead, she trusted me to do my best to raise her littlest descendants.

Momo cared. She showed her love in practical ways that cost her time and effort. Mainly, she cooked way more than you could eat, and prayed harder than you probably bothered to pray for yourself.

By cooking for us with love, she made the present moment better. She gave us the fuel for a better future.

By praying for us with tears, she entreated the Lord to gift us with that future, and for us to have the sense enough to follow when he led us there.

What have I learned? Positive relationships can start with us caring enough to meet another person’s needs – through active listening, empathizing, respecting them, and seeking their best interest.

In a healthy relationship, this will be a two-way street of course. But I can choose to work to create a better future for someone else, even if they do not have the wisdom or ability to return the effort.

I want to be like Momo, and do this life right.

Chrissie Kaufmann is a group fitness instructor at the YMCA of Southwest Michigan.

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